Mere experience of low subjective socioeconomic status stimulates appetite and food intake.
Sommaire de l'article
Among social animals, subordinate status or low social rank is associated with increased caloric intake and weight gain. This may reflect an adaptive behavioral pattern that promotes acquisition of caloric resources to compensate for low social resources that may otherwise serve as a buffer against environmental demands. Similarly, diet-related health risks like obesity and diabetes are disproportionately more prevalent among people of low socioeconomic resources. Whereas this relationship may be associated with reduced financial and material resources to support healthier lifestyles, it remains unclear whether the subjective experience of low socioeconomic status may alone be sufficient to stimulate consumption of greater calories. Here we show that the mere feeling of lower socioeconomic status relative to others stimulates appetite and food intake. Across four studies, we found that participants who were experimentally induced to feel low (vs. high or neutral) socioeconomic status subsequently exhibited greater automatic preferences for high-calorie foods (e.g., pizza, hamburgers), as well as intake of greater calories from snack and meal contexts. Moreover, these results were observed even in the absence of differences in access to financial resources. Our results demonstrate that among humans, the experience of low social class may contribute to preferences and behaviors that risk excess energy intake. These findings suggest that psychological and physiological systems regulating appetite may also be sensitive to subjective feelings of deprivation for critical nonfood resources (e.g., social standing). Importantly, efforts to mitigate the socioeconomic gradient in obesity may also need to address the psychological experience of low social status.